The PhD Returns: Life after the internship

After 3 whole months away from the lab, I have returned.

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And you know what- it feels pretty good.

On the first day back I didn’t do so much. I mainly faffed around moving data from my laptop I had worked on in the first weeks of the internship to my work computer.

The next day I had a 3 hour long meeting with my supervisor. 3 HOURS. I came out with the biggest to-do list you have ever seen. I also have a summer student- which although great, is also an added extra thing to think about!

The third day I spent collecting all my data from before my internship, re-ordering it all (again) and making big tick charts to show : What I have looked at in what experiments, the data I have from each experiment, what I have analysed from each experiment, what I have left to analyse, what data I can compare, what data I need more replicates of ect ect.

Guys, this tick chart is great. If you haven’t done one like this- invest the time and make one! It’s a great way of getting your data and thoughts in order, and has really helped me to redirect myself and gain a bit of focus again.

What I have realised after 3 months off:

  • It is very easy during the PhD to, without even realising it, lose focus, and start doing too many experiments all at once. Writing out this massive chart made me realise I had begun to do just that- and that I needed to focus and prioritise a few things to enable me to get the most out of my data.
  • I have also realised once again, that my notes need improving. Why did I randomly stop dating my lab book? There must have been a good reason at the time, but as I now try to figure if one of my reagents has a timespan to be used in, I am cursing my past self.
  • I am going to start doing a MONTHLY bullet journal instead of weekly. A weekly diary may have worked for me fine in the internship, but looking at what I need to do, and how much I really need to start planning experiments to fit everything in- weekly is just not going to cut it. But, at least I am now properly keeping a diary…
  • Your brain sucks. If your memory is anything like mine, it is pants. If you are repeating an experiment basically everyday you may skip writing down certain things as they are obvious. They are not obvious when you go back to notes 3 months later. I am seeing myself during Thesis write up really hating some of my lab notes. If you are reading this post in first year:
  • WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. No matter how insignificant. No matter how many times you have made that reagent, or used that primer. Write it all. Future you will thank you. If you are in 2/3/4th year start doing it NOW! Most of the ‘important’ data begins coming out in these later years- make sure its easy for yourself to find and write up.
  • You know what, I have missed the lab life really.

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  • But, working 9-5 really is the best, and I want that- I shall be working hard to make my  PhD hours fit this.

 

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